The above clip is titled Nuclear power for the future. It describes the industry leading example of the construction project at Plant Vogtle in northeastern Georgia and it includes some opining on America’s energy future by Greg Jaczko the former Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The video correctly points to the fact that Jaczko had no background in nuclear energy production or nuclear engineering before he was appointed to serve on the Commission as part of a blatantly political power move by Senator Harry Reid, his former boss.
There is something distressing about watching a man who spent seven years and two months on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doing everything in his power — and some things that he was not legally empowered to do — to raise additional barriers to nuclear energy development complain that the technology is too expensive. From fire protection, to aircraft impact, to imposed delays in granting combined operating licenses, to torpedoing Yucca Mountain and destroying the legal basis for the Waste Confidence rule, Greg Jaczko can claim a great deal of credit for slowing the nuclear renaissance.
Nuclear energy is not just less competitive because natural gas, wind and solar energy are cheaper than expected when there was optimism in 2005, it is also less competitive in the United States because the cost of operating nuclear energy facilities ratchets ever higher and regulatory uncertainty keeps growing.
It is quite depressing to realize that Jaczko was forced into a responsible position without any qualifications other than having powerful patrons inside the Washington, DC beltway. My only hope is that the leaders in the nuclear industry learned something from the Jaczko experience; no industry should meekly accept the actions of the federal government as being in its best interests.
That is especially true with regard to the appointment and confirmation of a regulator that has the power to destroy a beneficial industry’s economic performance in order to establish favorable market conditions for more politically connected competitors.